One of my goals is to generate enough revenue to live comfortably without working more than one day a week.

Obviously, at one point, I will have to create businesses and make profitable investments. However, I thought it made no sense to start trying to make money without making sure that I was using my money wisely first.

That's why I spent two weeks analyzing and optimizing my expenses, and I figured I could write what happened here!

The plan

My method was straightforward, but I learned that only the dumbest plans stand the test of the battlefield.

  1. Categorize a year's worth of expenses from my professional and personal account
  2. Investigate all categories over 1 000€

Data collection

No shortcut here. I had to spend a couple of hours logging and categorizing everyone of my expenses.

I know there are dedicated apps to do just that, but I prefer to use the tools I already know. Moreover, I find that a spreadsheet lacks all the distractions that trigger my procrastination.

With an average of 30-40 lines per month,  I got to record and categorize roughly 800+ entries; Yeaye! I ended up with the following:

When time comes, you should be your own mechanical turk

Be conscious that the categories' choice is critical. With small categories, most of the expenses will be under the investigation threshold. In any doubt, start with bigger ones. This way, you will be able to drill down only when necessary.

The analysis

If you know your Excel, you already know what a pivot table is. If you don't, please check the documentation since this is one of the most powerful features of these tools.

In our case, a pivot table will allow us to create this view in a couple of clicks :

My targets were clear :

  • Taxes: A LOT! However, fiscal optimization being a completely different task, I will handle it in another post.
  • Accounting: 2445€
  • Donations: 2400€ / year
  • Food & Sport: I don't want to reduce my standard of living, save money where I can
  • One of my real estate investment: 12 692€
  • Insurances : 841€ + 538€
  • Banking: 353€ + 179€

The last one is under 1 000€, but I was not satisfied with their services and wanted to change anyway.

I am sure that your case seems too different from mine, but I am convinced that by doing the exercise and setting a proper threshold, you will reduce your expenses by 5%-10%. Most of us can make substantial savings on banking, insurances, electricity, gas, loans, and taxes.

The optimization

The optimization in itself is very straightforward:

  1. Understand what you currently have: It's essential to know what package you have and what you are paying for. It will allow you to decide what you want to keep and give you negotiation leverage with what you are willing to let go.
  2. Do a benchmark: Now that you know what you want, google your way to some alternatives and create a matrix of price and functionalities. If required, the internet is full of comparators like LesFurets, MeilleursTaux, MeilleursAgents, which will compare anything from banks, electricity & gas providers, loans, etc.
  3. Call them: It's getting rarer to find a phone number on websites, but please, every time you can, call the company. Not only will they be more likely to give you a discount, but they will create your future negotiation speech by giving you all the pros of their solutions and the cons of their competitors (which are probably your other prospects).
  4. Chose your new provider: At this point, you have a clear view of the field, their respective prices, and features. You should be able to decide effortlessly.
  5. Negotiate by phone: Once you have picked your champion, call them back (or better, make them call you back) and ask for a discount. No need to find any reasons. Just ask and do not accept their service by phone if they don't (you can always subscribe online later).

In my case, here are the results :

Provider Original Price New Price Saving
Accounting 2445 705 -1740
Loan 12692 10767 -1925
Donations 2400 600 -1800
Insurances 1379 978 -401
Banking 532 174 -358
Total 19448 13224 -6224

Conclusion

In less than ten days and the equivalent of two to three days of work, I reduced my annual expenses by 6 224‬€ without having to lower my standard of living! I also understood every services I pay for and what they can do for me in the process!

I also talked to many sales reps and hugely trained my negotiation skills.

In the end, I loved this week! It was fun, and I learned a lot. Again, these adventures feel like you are taking control over your life and chose what you want and what you don't.

Finally, logging all my expenses allowed me to find anomalies and cancel many services I do not use anymore!

TL; DR: Totally worth it!